Rockwell rocks well...believe. From "near Cheltenham in the sticks" to Cardiff to now dwelling in London, Rockwell is an up-and-coming D&B producer to keep your eyes (and ears) on. His first solo release that got all heads turning, ‘Drums (Playing In The Streets)’ - a tearing tune held together by dark riddims and a tight techy-percussive sound - received big support across the scene. With more tunes doing the rounds like ‘Underpass’ and ‘Tribes,’ and with everyone holding his name as the next big thing, Rockwell is now looking forward to more releases on Shy Fx's Digital Soundboy imprint and the future-forward Critical Music. We decided to have a nosey into the thoughts of Rockwell before he sets foot in our Room Two booth this Friday.
Firstly, for those who are unacquainted…can you sum up your sound in 10 words…please?
Sparse in composition, with intricate beats and a dancefloor edge.
So I read that you were more of a Hip Hop and Punk fan back in the day…can you tell us a little bit about your musical transition into the world of D&B?
I think drum & bass is almost the middle point between these two genres as it combines the urgency, speed and DIY mentality of Punk with the breaks, B-boy swagger and attitude of Hip-hop. Lots of my punk friends from back in the day are now into drum and bass so I see it as a sort of a natural musical progression, although looking back it was difficult to gain access to the music as where we lived we could buy CD’s but there weren’t any raves. I can remember buying some garms from a shop called the Crunch in Worcester when I was about 17 and being given a free Grooverider CD and listening it in bed on my headphones – I can remember hearing ‘Dubplate’ by Total Science. The way the track broke down to nothing but subs and then that break just ran in out of nowhere was a real formative moment in my love for drum and bass.
Where was the first D&B rave you went to? Who was playing?
I went to see Hype and Craze in what used to be Café Blue in Bristol on a weeknight when I was at university. I can remember being a little naïve and not really knowing what to expect. The club was dead but the power of the tunes really struck a chord with me. After that I can remember attending dances like Mutiny, Drive by at Creation and the Full Cycle Sundays at the Level throughout my time in Bristol. These dances really inspired me in so much as I bought turntables, spent nearly my entire student loan on vinyl every term, and spent most of term time in my room learning how to use logic from scratch.
Do you think your roots in music reflect or have some influence on the kind of tracks you’re producing these days?
I’m not one for doing tunes big snares or synth leads, as the whole house and electro thing never really interested me. I like to maintain quite a raw and gritty quality to my beats and soundscapes, which I suppose relates back to the kind of hard early 90’s NYC hip-hop I’m into.
You have been producing for 6 years now - how long does it take for you to produce a track, from start to finish?
Usually I can lock a rough sketch down within an afternoon, but often the rough sketch sounds completely different from the finished article. Adding the intricacies into my beats can often be a never-ending task, and I have been known to have a batch of tunes remaining unfinished for months! Recently I’ve been lucky to be able to collaborate with Icicle, Alix Perez and Zero Tolerance, and think one of the advantages of doing collaborations with experienced producers is learning when to move on and progress with the track so that the vibe is not lost.
Where do you get the inspiration from?
The main inspiration for the vibe of my beats would be the experiences that I had when I first moved to London, especially the feeling that you would have if you were on the streets at night with your iPod, or going somewhere new that you hadn’t been before, a sort of anxious excitement.
The likes of Data, Instra:mental, Loxy, Sabre, Alix, Icicle and Ramadanman have tracks that have a permanent home in your music box, what does it take for a tune to gain your attention and love?
I like producers that can present original ideas in a memorable way and make tunes that are more than a sum of their parts. I also like producers that have a recognisable style, for example you can always identify an Icicle tune by the way he does his bass. I think the majority of the more minimal tunes that are around at the moment lack a lot of originality and purpose, but there are some producers making some really innovative an exciting music at the moment.
The last 10 tracks you played on your iPod?
Instra:mental – Tramma
Funkmaster Flex ‘Friday Night Street Jams 16/4/1993’ Radio Show
Debruit ft Om’Mas Keth – I’m Goin Wit You
Don Leisure / Jamal Radio 1 Mix
Pearson Sound – Plsn
Alix Perez – 1984
Dimlite – Lullaby For Gastric Ulcer
Mobb Deep – Get Dealt With
Black Flag – Nervous Breakdown
Slimzee/Wiley/Dizzee Rascal @ Rinse Fm 24/11/2002
How are you feeling about playing at fabric for the first time?
I’ve been attending fabric only for about the last 2-3 years, but it’s always impressed me the way that there is a decent crowd every week that is pretty clued up about the music. I don’t think there is another club of its size anywhere in the world that has drum and bass and dubstep nearly every Friday and is consistently at capacity. Given its reputation, I think playing at fabric is almost a right of passage, and I’m really up for my first set and hope it’s the first of many! I’ve got a CD wallet of fresh dubs and some brand new ones from myself that I can’t wait to hear on that huge system!
Come and show some love and support to Rockwell making his FABRICLIVE debut! This Friday, 21st August in Room Two alongside Fresh, Commix, Ink, Amit (live), Data and Sabre.